Though it’s the peak of the Sinulog Festival, we all know there’s more to Cebu than the colorful street parties, wild merrymaking, and of course, everyone’s favorite F-word. (I meant “fatty lechon,” by the way. Why? What did you think it was?)
If you’re in the area, don’t miss the following gustatory jewels found only in the Queen City of the South. If you’re stuck at home, I say book a flight soon and prepare your belly for an experience it won’t soon forget. Just remember to pack some good anti-cholesterol meds, too.
7. Sunburst Chicken
To jumpstart our four-day trip, my friends and I had lunch at Sunburst Chicken (there’s one at Ayala Center). I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve expressed my love for chicken in my previous articles, so trust me when I tell you, Sunburst will easily make it in your personal Top 7 Fried Chicken list once you try it.
For PHP 203, I was able to enjoy their Prime Cut Thigh Meal. It comes with three chicken thighs, rice, and one of the most delicious slaws I’ve had in a long time. The chicken was uniquely flavorful, I still haven’t found the perfect words to describe it. It tasted great on its own, and even better dunked in the banana ketchup. Although the amount of potato fries was disappointing, the yummy slaw made up for it. Go buy a bucket and bring it to Manila!
6. Casa Verde
No Cebu trip is complete without dining at the famous Casa Verde. They have branches at Ayala Center and IT Park. Usually there would be a long wait list, but the wait to be seated is well worth it. Yes, they’ve recently expanded to Manila, but some say the food quality isn’t as good as it is in the original.
Try their blockbuster Brian’s Ribs (PHP 233). The meat was tasty, tender, and perfectly cooked. It disintegrates inside your mouth in a matter of seconds. I’m baffled at how low the prices of the dishes were considering the quality and quantity. I sure didn’t expect something that costs no more than PHP 300 to be that huge and filling.
5. La Marea
For dessert, try the brownie cups (around PHP 100/cup) at La Marea located at The Walk, IT Park (Cebu’s BGC of sorts). The brownie cups are the bomb, but it was their Frozen Brazo de Mercedes (PHP 85/slice) that I enjoyed the most.
4. La Vie Parisienne
We came across La Vie Parisienne only by accident. We were on our way to the Taoist Temple in Beverly Hills Subdivision when we saw a black sign with a giant picture of a red macaron. It led us to a shop that looked, felt, and smelled like a modern deli somewhere in downtown Paris. There were trays upon trays of freshly baked French pastries (that smelled incredible) and shelves filled with bottles of everything from jams to oils to wines. On one end of the counter were countless kinds of cheeses and meats. At least a dozen different flavors of macarons were also on display.
I recommend going here in the evening so you can best enjoy the romantic setting of the restaurant. With the lights turned on, the place literally looks like it came straight from a scene from Avatar (2009).
My friends and I ended up having an intimate dinner in their beautiful wine cellar, sharing a bottle of Asti Spumante (PHP 220), the Italian counterpart of champagne (which would cost double to triple the price in Manila), plus three types of cheeses and two types of meat to go with it. We also tried their croissants (PHP 25 for a small and PHP 45 for a large), which were so soft and addicting. Finally, for dessert, we sampled their macarons (PHP 40 per piece) and promptly understood why they use the sign they do. It did not disappoint.
3. Larsian Barbecue
I’d have to give my Best Meal I had in Cebu Award to Larsian Barbecue. If you want the authentic Cebuano dining experience, this is the place to be. Larsian is a huge open-air food court that’s open 24/7. Each stall offers almost the exact same food: skewered chicken, hotdogs, stuffed fish, shrimp, and Cebu’s famous chorizo, among others. The price of each stick can be as low as PHP 10, depending on the type of meat. You choose from the array of fresh food turo-turo style, and they cook it for you. The food is best partnered with pusô, and you eat with your bare hands.
There were five of us, and our bill, which amounted to PHP 700, included five sticks of assorted large chicken parts, ten sticks of chorizo, a pork liempo platter, a heaping bowl of nilagang baka, no less than 20 pieces of pusô, and a 1-liter bottle of soda. That’s around P140 per head. And though this is a little off topic, I think Larsian is probably the best place to mend a broken heart.
2. CnT Lechon vs. 1. Zubuchon
They say CnT serves the best authentic lechon in Cebu, and I couldn’t agree more, at least with the authentic part. The legit Cebu lechon is extremely salty from the crispy red skin to the tender hunks of meat down to very last bone. It’s best eaten with bare hands and dipped in soy sauce and vinegar with chili or no dip at all. A kilo of CnT lechon serves five to six people and costs around PHP 420. It’s best to visit their branches during peak hours because they usually run out of lechon at other times.
In my opinion, however, the lechon from Zubuchon is better. It’s not as salty as CnT, so some might find Zubuchon bland, but it’s just right for me. Though it’s significantly more expensive at PHP 530/400g, it still has that perfect, crispy skin and really, really good meat. It also doesn’t hurt that their veggie dishes, such as the Eggplant Ensalada and the three-way Seaweed Salad, make excellent sides for all that pork.
Heck, you’re in Cebu. Live a little. Try both and decide which one to take home!
Bonus: Ibiza Beach Club, Movenpick Resort
If you still have time, visit Movenpick on your last afternoon in Cebu for Ibiza Beach Club’s happy hour. They have a Buy One Take One promo on most of their cocktails (which are really, really good). Don’t worry, you won’t need to pay for an entrance fee. Just lie down on the beach and sip your cold mojito while watching the sun set into the sea. Also, try not to miss your flight.